Welcome Back, my friend and part-time taxi driver, Wael, exclaimed as he shook my hand in Terminal 2 at Cairo Airport, 0800 hours on Friday. “It’s good to be home, I said fingers crossed, as the Australian tourist group I had been chatting up on the Singapore Airbus pushed past, beaming with expectations.
I had asked if Gaza was on their itinerary. But I guess they don’t like tunnels.
Australians, they love border protection, remember the Tampa, that Norwegian ship which rescued drowning Afghanistan refugees in 2001?
The Australian government of the day, who wouldn’t give them safe harbor, won an election on that episode.
Politicians know best. They can handle things, keep the peace, and be sure to do the right thing. That is their public relations pitch anyway.
Over Christmas I enjoyed a very emotional home coming after seven years and I’ve now found myself having committed the mortal sin of sleeping during the day after a 22 hour flight (including transfer) from Brisbane and I am wide awake at 2 am eating Tim Tams, trying to get an angle on it all.
Travel of course is about cultural baggage; what you take and what you bring home, and this, apart from the Tim Tams, is The Derek Truck Band, which I am playing on my stereo – you’ll just have to Google all of that and then please read on.
No surprise really that Israel has turned on Hamas with elections looming; handing out a beating to the underclass always polarizing the center right who believe the usual wedge issues no matter where they are in the world (see Tampa above);
1. They will out-number us by 2020.
2. Poverty is their own fault for being lazy.
3. They’ll take your job, your daughter or both.
Buying into Middle East politics is of course Cairo’s most boring dinner party conversation. One side has all the guns, political will and a working bureaucracy and the other six or seven sides have no idea.
Hamas can hire me as a PR agent. Yes, I think they are that desperate. Hezbollah? I’ll take that account too and I’ll do the PLO for old time’s sake. Why they never learnt to handle the dark art of disinformation and news fabrication.
Yes I have been to the land of plenty; top billing went to the English wife and baby Max. Let me tell you, the cousins and old friends came out of the wood work to have a look. See PR skills!
And I come home to chaos. Moses’ land of milk and honey up in smoke. And why? No Hill and Knowlton, no Saatchi and Saatchi.
Google those references if you like and remember, more than three Tim Tams at 3 am is a mistake.
The Australian tourists from the plane were headed for a three star hotel in Dokki, and then catching the train to Luxor to join a cruise on the Nile to Aswan; riding the train back to Cairo and then a round trip to Alexandria.
The three week itinerary cost 5,500 Australian dollars, approximately LE 20,000, including airfare, accommodation, breakfast, entrance fees, guides and taxes.
Twenty grand, you could travel for a year in Egypt on that.
I did learn important information on my 22 hour flight though. Firstly tourists expect to fall ill with gastroenteritis whilst in Egypt. The remedy for this is to drink a little whisky at breakfast to kill the bacteria. There are fool proof ways to tell real papyrus from fake papyrus, but the Airbus hit turbulence and my “coke spilt over my notes, so this is another secret lost to the sands of the Sahara.
Egypt is so successful at luring these visitors because it sells the sizzle in the sausage, as the marketers would say. It is a childhood dream of occidentals to wonder amongst the mysterious Pharaonic temples, drift on the Nile and haggle in souks that haven’t changed since Biblical times.
You see, disinformation, Egypt understands spin, and Hamas, and Gaza in particular, needs the doctor now.